The Response of the Oppressed

Ed. Note: This article was originally posted at Simple Justice, the award winning legal blog run by my old mean-ass editor at Mimesis Law Fault Lines, Scott Greenfield.

In 1862, in Minnesota on the Lower Sioux Indian Reservation, the Santee Dakota Indians were starving to death. They had agreed to cede land to the United States and move onto the reservation, and the government agreed to provide for their needs, including food.[1]

In 2020, blacks had suffered for years with young blacks being killed by police officers, culminating in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, without officers being held accountable for misconduct.[2] In both cases, the affected population did what people do when they have taken all that they can take and have no other readily available options—they reacted with violence.[3]

In Minnesota, 158 years ago, the Santee forced the Indian Agent to issue them partial rations, and then broke out of the reservation, waging war against the whites. And the government reacted as one would expect, sending the Army against the tribe.[4] In Minnesota, riots broke out, as they also did in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the shooting of Jacob Blake Jr. by a police officer at a domestic violence call.

In this latest officer-involved shooting, about which Scott Greenfield wrote and posted cellphone video, Blake is shown being shot seven times in the back at point blank range. Blake was unarmed, and from what I can tell, not a threat to anyone. I simply cannot see how the shooting can be justified, but we don’t have all of the information yet, so we should withhold judgment.

Even with the additional cellphone video, there is no indication of danger that I could see. But, as Scott noted, Kenosha is burning, just like Minneapolis burned, and Ferguson, Missouri burned before that. And just like towns will burn in the future, if we don’t get a handle on things.

But the dominant community is reacting in the same manner today as they reacted in 1862. The problem is obvious, that those who were starving to death were at fault and shouldn’t have rebelled. The military commission had sentenced 303 to be hanged, but they had to get President Lincoln to sign off on it. He originally said that only those who raped white women would be executed, but found only two Santee met that criteria.

In the meantime, the voting public of Minnesota was calling for the entire tribe to be put to death.[5] So on December 27, 1862, in the largest mass execution ever conducted in the United States, 38 Indians were hung from one large gallows in Mantako, Minnesota, in front of 4,000 spectators and 1,500 soldiers.

In the current day, we’re not hanging them, but we are doing next to the same thing. President Trump has declared that the Black Lives Matter movement is a “Marxist” group who want to kill police officers.[6] PragerU[7] released a video, “Black Lives Matter is a Marxist Movement,” that has garnered over a million hits. At RallyPoint, conservative military service members and veterans site, the same is occurring, primarily focusing on Seattle and Portland, all with comments about how BLM wants to destroy the American way of life, meaning the white American way of life.

OK, for the sake of argument, let’s say that BLM is a Marxist organization. What other options do blacks have at this point? Blacks are dying at the hands of police but no one is interested in stopping it. And because of that, conservative whites are attacking the character of the movement.

So let’s look at who’s actually doing something, versus who is just criticizing and who’s actually in the arena. If you don’t want oppressed people to flock to “Marxist” organizations, you have to give them a viable option.

The Santee didn’t have an option in 1862. They could stay on the reservation and starve, or they could break out and try to survive. Today, blacks have the same option. They can either do nothing and continue to die at the hands of the police, or they can join a group that will actually do something.

Think about that—and what would you do in their position?

[1] Gregory J. Prickett, Here Were Hanged 38: Using the Image of Law to Terrorize and Subjugate American Indians 7 (July 26, 2014) (unpublished J.D. rigorous writing assignment, Texas A&M Univ.).

[2] Gregory J. Prickett, Prickett: Taking a Knee, Simple Justice (May 31, 2020).

[3] As I’ve stated before, numerous times, I’m opposed to rioting and the destruction of property or the injuring of people. Those who riot should be identified and prosecuted.

[4] Here Were Hanged 38, at 7. The Army also illegally tried the Santee and sentenced 303 to death by hanging.

[5] Here Were Hanged 38, at 8.

[6] Some of the leaders of BLM have stated that they are Marxist, like Patrisse Cullors.

[7] PragerU is funded by two Christian Nationalist brothers, the Wilks, who want to install Biblical law in the United States.